I have a secret, though. One you may not be aware of. Those who know me "IRL" can tell you the sordid truth, but I'll save them the trouble and just put it out there:
I am not a "littles" person.
Or, maybe you're something more like me. You like the baby years...and then you're a little bit lost until they hit the fifth birthday.
Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my kids--in ALL their phases...I'm just naturally better at rolling with the punches in some stages more than in others.
Now, why would you want to come to someone like me, someone who admittedly struggles to adapt herself to the foreign and fantastical land of Preschoolmania? Well, if you're Jane "Glitter" Smith, then trust me, you don't need my help. In fact, you can come over to my house and offer your expertise any day of the week! I'll even bake you cookies. But, if you're a little more like me (ie. you're ready, willing, and able to tutor your friend's high schooler in AP English but you find yourself hyperventilating over phrases like "fine motor skills" and "finger paints") you're in good company.
And guess what? If I "made it through," you can, too!
Just bear with me, and I'll share
By this, I mean: there is no rush. Daycares today are trying to turn your drooling one-month-old into Baby Einstein, but the real Einstein was, in fact, a late bloomer academically. Pretty ironic if you think about it.
Don't force your child to go ahead of his pace. You might be worried that Junior will be headed off to college still holding a pencil in his fist instead of the way he's supposed to and believing there is a Letter Ellemmennopee, but no amount of stress on your part is going to accelerate his development. Trust me, it'll come. So, trust your child.
2. Where "skills" are concerned, play makes perfect.
I'm a big fan of "whole child" education, meaning that as an educator, you're striving to nurture and mold not just the intellectual bits of a child's brain matter but her whole being - physical, spiritual, emotional, social, artistic, and academic.
In the preschool years, there's a lot of talk about "skills," specifically of the fine and gross motor varieties. There are curricula out there that speak to these, but I have found through trial and error that the best thing you can do is intentionally play with your child.
The "with" is important here - and I'll be honest, it's not always something I've focused on. But in retrospect, I've discovered it's worth it. It really is. I am not making that mistake again with #3. Here's why:
Every child has her strengths and her weaknesses. So do parents. My husband is a computer engineer. I'm an artist. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we don't do a lot of rough-and-tumble, bat-and-ball play around our house. But children need that kind of play to develop. And they need us--their parents--to show them how.
For ideas on how to play with your children to develop their skills, check these pages out:
Gross Motor Skills
Fine Motor Skills
Also, get some of this stuff.
And then, relax. Have fun! Remember this is, as they say, child's play.
3. Count on it.
Whatever "it" might be. Fingers. Cheerios. Gold fish. Yes, play with your food! Voila, it's math!
The most important gift you can give your preschooler in the mathematics department is this: a concrete understanding of what numbers are and mean.
2 + 2 = 4 should not be a series of theoretical memorized numerals. It should be M&Ms in your tummy. Help your child to see the math all around her. The hexagonal stop sign. The circle of the moon. The triangle in her pizza slice. Addition in her cereal bowl. Subtraction as her apple slices disappear. You get the picture.
Play with your numbers. Bonus points if you get to eat them, too!
4. Read. A. Lot.
Frankly, this comprised the bulk of my formalized Pre-K curriculum.
Much of pre-kindergarten education can really be termed "pre-reading" education or "reading readiness." Sounded good to me. I'm a big fan of books, and I spend a lot of my time around them. My mother was a children's librarian, and I myself am a writer.
Talking to a lot of my friends, though, I've discovered that many of the titles and authors I take for granted as common knowledge are, in fact, fairly esoteric. If this describes you--if you have never heard of The Snowy Day, A. A Milne, or Donald Hall, have no fear! My esoteric knowledge can be yours at the click of a button.
But the button is in the next post, so stay tuned. ;-)